Following the journey of award winning author, Alex Azar, as he travels the publishing world and all things interesting. To reproduce or publish any material found within this blog, please contact me at azarrising@hotmail.com

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 5/21/14

If you didn't realize from my previous posts about Batman's 75th anniversary, I'm a bit of a comic fan. As such I thoroughly enjoyed a six issue comic series called The Escapist which came out in 2006.  The story revolved around a golden age era comic hero I hadn't heard about getting a retelling in more modern times.  It wasn't until after I read the series that I learned there never was a golden age Escapist, but that the character was created for a book that was published in 2000.  That book? "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon and it tells the story of two Brooklyn cousins, Jewish immigrants of WWII, who decide to create comics together.



I can safely surmise that this inspires the creation of the Escapist character.  How that story develops is what has me intrigued.  And the fact it won a Pulitzer Prize as a piece of historical fiction based on a non-existent comic character makes this a book I've been looking forward to reading.

Stay tuned for my verdict...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Big News!....

Last week I received some huge news.  I probably could tell you more at this point, but I'd rather draw it out.  So, all I'll say is, check back often for the biggest news I've ever announced.

Am I over selling it? Stay tuned to find out.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Free Thoughts 4/4/14

Growing up I never really had an issue with pimples.  Sure I got the stray bump while going through those awkward teenage years, but it was never so bad as a problem.  My skin, aside from the various scars I've acquired from the follies of youth, has always been mostly blemish free.

Why am I telling you this? Perhaps because it's three a.m. Thursday night, or if you prefer early Friday morning.  I'm of the belief that it's not the next day until you've gone to sleep and awoke on the other side of the hours past. Although, if that were true with my insomnia I'd be living a year behind everyone (time travel is possible!)

But the other reason I mention my very limited experience with pimples, is that I'm currently sporting two on my forehead greeting my hairline.  Granted in a few years my hair will have retreated away from this point on my head.  They're small, inconspicuous bumps most people probably can't notice but I sure as hell do.

I'm pretty much hoping they are in fact the result of spider bite for the simple fact that the alternative suggests that stress is the cause.  Those who know me well, know I am not one who stresses.  Things roll off my back with ease, and I can find the good in almost any situation.

So what is it at this point in my life do I have to stress about?  Hopefully just spiders in the bed.  Sleep well readers.

Monday, March 31, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 3/31/14: UPDATED

There's a strange dichotomy within me.  I'm very much a fan of Stephen King, however I haven't read many of his novels.  My fandom of his exists almost entirely with his short stories, (a large influence of my own style) however there are actually only a handful of his novels that I've already read.  Of course my opinion of the bard has been influenced by the plethora of movies/tv specials based on his storied career, but I'm just now making the conscious effort to read the novels based on his legendary works like It, and The Shining.


First up in this effort is Salem's Lot.  I'm a little ashamed to admit that not only have I not read this novel, I haven't seen either of the television miniseries based on it. Although, I have read the two short stories that take place within the same world as Salem's Lot but after the events of the novel; Jerusalem's lot and One for the Road.

Going into the novel I only have two established thoughts. First, I like the idea of Stephen King writing a horror story about vampires, especially since he's been quoted on more than one occasion that this is his favorite novel he's written. And second, if the title and nickname of the town is derived from "Jerusalem" aren't we all pronouncing it wrong?

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I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of vampires, and the recent hollywood over indulgence of them, has soured me even more.  With that said...

This book took me a month to finish all 631 pages, and that was time well spent.  Stephen King spent roughly 300 pages building the town, with no real elements of horror but it had a two fold purpose, 1) you got to know the characters and the town around them, and 2) it built suspense forcing you to fear for these people's lives since you know it won't end well for at least some of them.

Although this was only King's second novel, it was crafted to such expert timing that you engaged from the very beginning.  The writing is raw and emotional, much more so than the more polished King of recent books (still good in their own rite).

My two recommendations for those interested in reading this book are 1) don't let the fact it's about vampires turn you away, and 2) don't let the impressive page count intimidate you.  Pick it up, and just try to put it down with out wanting to know more.

On to the obligatory rating...



Multiple Reads.

It may have taken me longer than it should have to read this book, but I'll be sure to pick it up again when I want that brand of suspense that only Stephen King can supply.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Free Thoughts 3/24/14

I recently went to a concert at the Stanhope House.  It's basically a large bar that has a stage.  Apparently, it's mostly a Jazz/Blues venue, but I went with my brother to see Pharoahe Monch, a rapper.  And because he's a rapper, the opening acts were also hip-hop... all of them.  There was 8 opening acts, each performed 3-4 quick raps and were gone.  I would have much rather had 2-3 opening acts with longer sets, but as it was there was a good variety, by which I mean more white rappers in a single room than the 8 Mile movie auditions.

The M.C. of the night was also the first emcee of the night, an overweight Irish rapper with a vibrant red beard... and he was impressively good.  There was also an angry ICP (look it up) reject with red and white face paint on.  Even more interesting was his hype man was garbed in all black and wore a chromed out baby mask.  His hype man wore a mask and couldn't say anything! Not sure they understand the point of a hype man, but I will say he provided the comedy for the night when he turned his back to the crowd so he could lift up his mask and drink from his beer while Face Paint continued with the show.

My real reason for writing about this night is to acknowledge how hard it must be to get on stage and perform your art like that.  I was watching as one particularly bad performer was on stage, and despite not having a good flow or even decent lyrics, he worked the mic like he owned it with a confidence that's needed in this world of music.  No matter what type of music or the size of the venue, these musicians (whether good or bad) are putting themselves on display in a way other artists typically don't have to.

Authors, we write privately, edit our own work, then facelessly submit our work online to a publisher we'll likely never meet, who accepts or rejects us in an email, usually in what's called a 'form letter', which means they basically copy and paste the same rejection they gave the previous author.  Then we, as authors, make some adjustments and send it on to the publisher.  Rejection for an author is a faceless infraction that usually results in a better piece after more editing.

Musicians on the other hand, have to preform face to face and look their audience in the eyes as they either cheer or boo.  Even their practice rounds have to be live for feedback on whether or not their getting better or not.  I practice on a sheet of paper, and if I'm not happy with it, I can crumble it up and throw it away (sorry recycle).

All this to say, I'll always respect musicians for performing regardless of quality while I sit here behind my pad and a pen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A History Of Comics From One Fan's Eyes: Part 3

Marvel Comics and the creators behind these legendary characters that populate their universe did an amazing job crafting fantastic heroes that are somehow still relatable. Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, David Michelinie and countless other authors found a way for me to relate to this character that should otherwise not work. What was the quote from the Avengers movie? Without the suit of armor, Tony Stark is still a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” four things that, despite how wise I may think I am, I'm about as far from being as possible.

So, what was it that at such a young age I was able to relate to? A large part of it was that I had no idea what was really going on in these issues aside from the action. The other factor was that I envied Tony Stark's ability to overcome his setbacks, but also turn those setbacks into an advantage; all the while being a an 'ordinary' human, well as ordinary as a comic superhero could be.

Tony Stark's greatest inspiration is taking a life threatening injury and turning it into a career as a super hero.


It's those similar qualities that I look up to Batman as well. His career as a hero very similarly mimics that of Iron Man. These two beyond human, yet still human, heroes give readers the understanding that we can accomplish so much more than what's already before us; and the tragedy of the Stark's and Wayne's shows us we can overcome any tragedy that befalls us. Whether it's a personal injury or a death in the family we learn that nothing can hold us back if we dedicate what resources we have at our hands, even if we don't have multi-billion dollar international corporations at our disposal. We need to learn to rely on ourselves at times of crisis.

At the time of his creation Iron Man used transistors in his armor which were the height of technology. In his first issue, Batman used a grappling hook to get around. As the world advanced technologically so have these characters, ushering the advancement of other heroes in their worlds as well. The gadgets Iron Man has used both in his comics as well as in his blockbuster movies are on the trend of where our real world applications are heading. The first time I remember seeing a portable computer was in an issue of Batman, and although it wasn't called a tablet it's easy to imagine the developers of the tech that has taken over our lives, this 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combo I'm writing this on for instance, were inspired by the fictional adventures of characters like Iron Man and Batman.

Just as the technology within comic worlds evolve, so do the characters and creators along with them. The biggest factor that has contributed to the longevity of this medium filled with masks, tights, and capes is that the people behind the pages refuse to limit themselves or their imaginations. If the public feels Superman has gotten stale and too predictable, kill him. Sure, he was brought back no too long after, but there isn't a person alive that considers themselves a comic fan that doesn't have the black bagged death of Superman issue. Readers that grew up with Peter Parker from the day he was bit by a radio active spider, began to feel that while their lives moved on, the hero they loved hadn't. What does Marvel do? Amazing Spider-Man Giant Sized Annual #21, the marriage of Spider-Man and his long time love interest Mary-Jane Watson. This issue came at a time when many of the readers that followed Spider-Man as kids were now getting married themselves. Again, similar to Superman coming back to life, the Spider-Marriage was wiped from history several years ago.

Two milestone issues that display the ever evolving medium of comics


This all goes to show that while constantly evolving to updating characters to better fit the times, as well as the technology we read today's comics with, simultaneously things stay the same. Dick Grayson, Otto Octavious, James Rhodes, John Walker (the character not the whiskey), John Stewart (the marine not the comedian), Carol Danvers, Wally West or Eric Masterson; all of these characters took over the mantle of an established hero in an effort to evolve the character, some with a substantial career and fan-base of their own (Wally for Flash, anyone?). Although each of these stars relinquished the title to the original person behind the mask (soon in the case of Otto as Spider-Man) they each went on to carry their own long lasting careers.   

Whether you prefer Eric Masterson as Thor or Thunderstirke, or if your Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, Guy Gardener, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, or Simon Baz comics have something for everyone. Both young and old, new reader, lapsed fan, or devoted weekly shopper, male or female, straight, gay, bi, or unsure, there is a comic out there for you. Hollywood and TV knows this and as long as this remains true, we'll all have more comics than we can handle, but just maybe not as much as we want. 

 Whether you read the funny pages or watch them in the theaters, always remember to enjoy it and come back for more.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Intro 9: The Statue Garden

One thing I've learned as an author, and have confirmed with others in this profession, is that ideas never die.  It may take some time for them to resurface but they always do.  Some story ideas should probably stay buried like that time I thought people wanted to read about an Arab teen's fictional reimagining of the hip-hop East coast - West coast situation at the time of Biggie's and 2Pac's deaths.  Other ideas just need the proper time to germinate.  Such is the case of "The Statue Garden".

My sister and her husband own a statue business, that consists of a statue garden.  Now as an adult (at least in age) the scope of the plot of land isn't as impressive as it once was when I was a child, when I truly believed I could be lost in the 'maze' of statues for days.

A few years ago, after having dinner at my sister's place and seeing the statues at night, I knew there was a story there. I'm the type to sit on ideas and let them naturally develop as I work on other pieces.  During this time, I stumbled upon notes I had written nearly 20 years ago (that'd make me around 11) and front and center on a scrap of paper was "The Statue Maze, a boy gets lost in a maze of statues and years later awakes from a nightmare still in that maze".  As you'll notice a few things have changed, such as the character's gender, but those seeds were planted long ago.

Read on...


 “Steph, I can’t believe your uncle is letting us have the rave at his place. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!”
I know Kerrie. He said his business is doing pretty bad, so he’s not worried about any of the statues getting broken, except for the religious ones.”
Stephanie’s uncle, Don Hoskin, was like a surrogate father while growing up since her real father left her mom while she was pregnant with Stephanie. Don owns the third largest statue garden in New Jersey. However, despite early success in sales, he’s struggling to stay in business during this recession.
Don has owned Hoskin’s Marble Maze since before Stephanie was born, and some of her earliest memories are from the garden. She had her first kiss in a corner of the maze dedicated to birds; she would sneak to a section of children statues to write in her diary under the warm sun. But all of this was in stark contrast to her feelings of the garden at night while growing up.
The summer when she was five Stephanie’s grandfather, who was living with Uncle Don, passed away from a heart attack. Out of fear Stephanie ran into the maze to lose herself. Unfortunately, because of the commotion inside no one noticed that she was missing until seven hours later while they were at the hospital. Having fallen asleep beneath an angelic themed granite bench with wings for a back support, Stephanie was woken up by her mother’s voice. Waking up in the now lightless night put a fright in her that she wasn’t able to shake for some time.
After weeks of resistance Uncle Don finally convinced Stephanie to enter the maze. Although she was only willing to walk a few feet before running out, it was the first step towards getting her to traverse the entire maze. By Christmas time Stephanie knew every turn and dead end in the maze and was once again comfortable entering alone. Several weeks later she was even willing to go in at night, but she never recaptured the joy she once felt at her uncle’s statue garden.
It’s because of the lingering fears that Stephanie has subdued that Uncle Don was surprised of her request to have the party there. The truth of the matter is that Kerrie and her boyfriend persuaded her to do so.
Attempting to ease her best friend’s fears Kerrie tells Stephanie “I’ll make sure you’re never alone the whole night.”
Responding to her friend over the phone, Stephanie says “The only rule my uncle gave me was that we had to stay away from the religious section, which he’s going to section off anyway.”
Seriously Steph, this is going to be the best rave ever. I wonder what kind of costume I should wear.”
Not fully embracing her friend’s optimism, Stephanie cautions “We only have a month to plan a rave for two hundred people. We’ll need a DJ, lights, and enough ecstasy for everyone.”
Don’t worry about the ‘X’, James can take care of that.”
Even more cautious, Stephanie begins to question “How is your boyfriend able to… I’d rather not know, do I?”
With a playful “Nope” Kerrie ends the conversation.
***
The day before the rave Stephanie is setting up the orange string lights throughout the maze, with the aid of Kerrie, James, and Luis, a friend that she’s oblivious of his feelings for her.
Rubbing his arms to warm up, James complains “For years Halloween has been t-shirt weather, now I’m freezing my ass off.” He throws down a bundle of lights before continuing “Why are we even doing this shit now?”
Because you’re girlfriend told the DJ everything will be ready before he gets here tomorrow.” Stephanie replies curtly.
Well I hope it warms up by then.”
The typically shy Luis wanting to feel like he’s part of the conversation chimes in, “Not likely, forecast calls for more of the same. But once the music starts and the drugs take affect it shouldn’t matter anyway.”
Stop being such a nerd Lois, and finish these lights, me and Kerrie got to blaze.”
Defending her friend, Stephanie angrily corrects James, “You know his name is Luis, and he’s not a nerd for knowing tomorrow’s weather, asshole.”
You’re right; he’s a nerd because he still reads comics.” Being the only one who finds himself amusing, James walks away laughing at his own comments.
Ignore him.” Kerrie tries to assuage Luis, but seeing the look in his eyes, she tries a different approach. “Hey, why don’t you two go inside and get some food ready. James and I will finish with the lights.” Aware of Luis’ feelings for Stephanie, she hopes the alone time will help them bond.
Trying to take advantage of his opportunity, Luis puts a hand on Stephanie’s shoulder and says, “Kerrie told me that you’re uncomfortable among the statues at night, but don’t worry I’ll be here.”
Ignoring most of what was just said, Stephanie focuses on the word ‘uncomfortable’ and corrects Luis. “It’s not that I’m just uncomfortable in the maze, I have a genuine fear of it in the dark. Something happened when I was younger and I got lost in there. I wasn’t found until after I had fallen asleep and had this horrible nightmare.” She pauses, contemplating if she should tell Luis this nightmare that she’s kept to herself all these years. Deciding he’s safe, she continues, “I was only five at the time but in the nightmare I was an adult in this body, and one of the statues came to life. This stone man with an impossible flowing marble beard and shaggy hair had his way with me, and instantly I looked nine months pregnant. I knew the birth of the baby would mean the death of everyone I cared for, so I tried to kill it. This thing was just as powerful as its beady eyed father. Just when I was about to give birth to it, I awoke with a shriek that directed my family to me.”
Too captivated by Stephanie is Luis that he refuses to interrupt to interject his thoughts. Instead he motions for her to sit on a mushroom shaped bench that resembles something out of ‘Wonderland’ to the side of the entrance to the maze as she continues to confide in him.
I hadn’t even thought much of that dream in the twenty years since I’ve had it, but ever since we decided to have the party here I’ve been having the same nightmare. Every night I’d have it except with slight variations.”
Such as?” Luis asks as he inches closer to Stephanie on the already small bench.
Not even registering his advances Stephanie answers, “Well one night he had legs like a cat, and sometimes he had the head of a goat, kind of like a Minotaur.”
Forgetting his own timid-ness, Luis corrects “Actually, Minotaurs are half bull, not goat.”
I understand that, but that’s not the point. You know what I meant. You need to stop correcting people when it doesn’t matter. Anyway, more recently the stone man didn’t rape me.” Pausing for dramatic effect, she focuses on Luis’ eyes and continues, “I slept with him willingly.”
More than a little taken aback, Luis reasons, “Well that’s probably just because you’ve grown tired of fighting this guy every night.”
Appreciating Luis’ attempt to comfort her, “Thanks Luis, that’s sweet, but if I can resist advances in real life I could do the same in my dreams.” Gently patting his cheek she rises to her feet. “We should get the food ready.”
***
That night while trying to look up the forecast for the rave, Kerrie sees a news headline indicating that an inmate of a nearby insane asylum has recently escaped. “Holy shit Steph isn’t this place close to us?” turning her phone towards Luis sitting next to her.
Yea Hanover Township is like five minutes away.” Stephanie answers flippantly not too concerned with the news.
Luis looking at the picture jokes, “This guy looks like Charles Manson with a longer beard.” Mistaking Stephanie’s shock as a look of disbelief he supports his theory by showing her the phone, “Come on, you don’t think so?”
Looking up Stephanie sees the stone man that took advantage of her in her dream all those years ago, not only on the phone but also in the window directly behind Luis. Stephanie screams with all her might…
and wakes with a jolt heavily sweating and out of breath. Before she can even realize where she is Luis storms in the room with a baseball bat high overhead.
Seeing no one else in the room he asks, “What’s wrong Steph?”
Stammering for words Stephanie is interrupted by Kerrie and James walking in naked except for a blanket and sheet covering them. Their own sweat reveals they weren’t just sleeping in the nude.
James takes the bat from Luis hand, “Easy there Romeo, don’t touch that, it’s part of my Furies costume.” Seeing that it was nothing but a nightmare he leans towards Kerrie and whispers, “Come on, Sybil just had a bad dream, let’s go finish.” He receives a sturdy elbow to his gut.
With the departure of Kerrie and James, Stephanie asks Luis to stay in the room. “I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to sleep, actually I don’t even want to try. I’m scared I’ll have another nightmare.”
Exhausted from all of the day’s work, Luis forces the tire out of him for a chance to spend the night with Stephanie. “Sure thing, but you’ll have to keep me up.” Hoping she takes that as an invitation for something intimately physical.
Instead he hears, “I’ve got an idea, go change into your costume, I’ll change into mine, and we can model for each other.”
With his libido deflated Luis shuffles off after mustering a weak “Okay.”

To find out what happens within the statue garden, read "The Statue Garden" in Cobwebs & Antiquities published by Static Movement.  You can purchase the book at Amazon.com and as always in the AzarRising mobile bookstore.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A History Of Comics From One Fan's Eyes: Part 2


I didn't know at the time, but choosing to buy that issue of Iron Man #133 not only started on the sexy path of comic collector (hey, maybe if enough people say it comics can be sexy), but also changed my life in a much more profound way.


The comic that started me on my path of constant near poverty, in other words, a comic collector

Coming from a large ethnic family, friends weren't something I could choose. I was born with a great group of siblings and cousins that I will always love and cherish. But what that meant as a kid growing up in the USA, I didn't have what my family called 'American' friends (regardless of their ethnicity). The first friends I was able to choose, were from comics, and that's why even in my 30's with a robust(ish) social life I'm proud to count Iron Man and Batman among my friends. Granted, I don't readily promote that fact about me (except right now with you, I'm still looking for that girlfriend that shares my passion for comics), but I do sport a painfully acquired tattoo of both Iron Man and Batman.

Pictures of the tattoo don't do it justice, but if you ask I'll be glad to drop my pants. (Did I mention the tattoo was on my thigh?)

It's that deep connection with comics that drove me to be an author, and although I've been writing them for as long as I can remember, I've yet to publish my first word bubble. On the other hand, I have found a modicum of success with my prose writing. To date I've been published in nearly a dozen different anthologies, and have several more planned for 2014, including a short comic in a horror anthology.

Coincidentally enough, around the same time I was drawn into the world of spandex and masks, I watched the first Nightmare on Elm St on tape when my family was asleep. I know I should have been terrified, but even at that age I must have already had that blackness in my heart that all horror authors share. It's a corruption that twists all ideas to the macabre, gory and demented. Thankfully, I'm able to satiate those thoughts with my writing and I'm the normal-ish person I appear to be.

If Iron Man was my gateway to comics, Freddy Krueger was the drug that got me hooked on horror


That unique combination during my upbringing of superheroes and slashers led to me creating Paranormal Detective James S. Peckman; a human living in a world where coworkers have healing abilities and villains work for ancient alien gods or suck your blood, if you're lucky. I've written ten of his cases so far, and even have the pleasure of having one published in an anthology of winter themed stories.

Attempting to widen my writing influence, I regularly update my blog, AzarRising, with any various writing news and interviews. I continue to post rejections letters I receive, in an attempt to encourage other struggling authors and show that a rejection letter doesn't mean what you've written isn't print worthy. In fact, almost every story that I have published received a rejection letter prior to seeing print.

However, to keep from being completely gloom and doom, I also post intros to the stories that have been printed as a showcase of my work, and hopefully also to serve as inspiration to the next writer reading my blog.

In another effort to spread my name, I've been going to conventions and trade-shows with stacks of my business cards and copies of my anthologies. I've met some wonderful people at these shows, and even made business connections that proved fruitful, leading to additional publications.

However, my greatest convention memory was pure fan-boy, and not as an author. Four years ago at New York Comic-Con while looking for a publisher to whore myself to, I found a little nook of a booth with no customers. But what he did have, was a display of dozens of classic golden age issues, including Tales of Suspense #39. For those of you not in the know, that issue contains the first appearance of Iron Man himself.



In 1963 you could have picked up the birth of a legend for only $0.12

Having not planned on buying any lofty purchases, I didn't have the necessary money on hand. I had convinced the dealer to give me time to go to an ATM and (following a call to my bank to confirm that I hadn't gone insane or lost my card) added to my ever growing collection the crown jewel of Iron Man comics.

At that point, I had already collected ever Iron Man series issue, and this addition gave me the new mission, of obtaining the entire run of ToS with Iron Man. I can say with much pride, and pain in my wallet, that I am nearly complete on this mission that began nearly 30 years ago with Iron Man #133. A comic where the hero, and my friend, nearly died at the hands of the Hulk.


Come back in two weeks for the third and final installment in this collector's comic history.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 2/24/14 UPDATED

I'm about to read a book called "The 37th Mandala", and that's about all I know about the book.  I even had to google the book to find out the author is Marc Laidlaw, feel like I should know this name, but I don't.



I had come across the book randomly about two years ago and remember hearing years prior that I would enjoy it.  I think the phrase used was something along the lines of 'this is right up your alley'.

Unfortunately, I don't know what that means. Pretty sure my varied tastes lead to many alleys, some dirty and scary, others more inviting.  Come back to to find which alley this fits in, and possibly more important, what the hell a Mandala is...

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Wow, that's all I can say. Unfortunately, it's not a good wow.  This book was painful to read, at least as far I as had made it through.

First off a Mandala is apparently the author's attempt at reimagining H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Gods (you know Cthulhu, Nyarlothep, and all those guys).  The Mandala's are lies based off of myths that may or may not have been routed in truth.  A Mandala is a central sigil associated with a certain spell.  What a Mandala isn't, is interesting or remotely entertaining.  At least The 37th Mandala isn't.

The writing is dry, so dry in fact, it renders the adventure within the story boring.  Merriam Webster would have written a more engaging book than Marc Laidlaw did here.  To further turn off anyone holding this book in their hands, is the fact it's filled with unrealistic characters, leaving you completely uninterested in the outcome of their lives.  Readers would have been better served had Laidlaw acted as muse for a different more competent author.  I only say that because typically anything with the Elder Gods is worth giving a shot; this however is not.

As if you needed this bit, but the rating is...

Inside Cover
Despite the name of the writing, don't even bother reading the blurb on the inside of the book.  I tried liking this book, even forced myself passed my self imposed 75 page limit, but still had to tap out.  Save your brain cells, and skip this one.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A History Of Comics From One Fan's Eyes: Part 1

If recent history is any indication, we all love comics. How else would the biggest Hollywood blockbusters be based on the four-color 'funny pages' so many of us grew up on? Marvel's The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time, and the Iron Man and Christopher Nolan Batman trilogies are among the biggest franchises in recent years. Comics have even taken over our TV screens with the recent success of both Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the countless cartoons. No matter where you look, or what your personal interests are, it's hard to deny that today, now, this time in history, it is good to be a geek.


As recent as seven years ago, no one would have expected it to be as big as it's become.

I'm curious about how that started. Not on the grand scale of San Diego Comic-Con becoming a powerful international showcase of all things pop culture, but on a more personal note. People always say you never forget your first, but if you ask most comic readers they can't recall the first issue they purchased or read.

I for one, remember with clear distinction the first comic I bought with my own money. I still own that very issue, and not a repurchased copy, but the original issue that cost me less than a third of today's popular comics.

My brother had been letting me read his comics for a couple months at the time, well as much reading as any five-year-old does with a comic full of eye catching art. From the beginning I had a strong fascination with Iron Man, based mostly on the fact that he had such a crippling medical condition but still sacrificed himself to save the world. And the cars, he had amazing cars (I named by Big Wheel tricycle Iron Man) that every kid loved.

How cool is that now you can buy an Iron Man themed Big Wheel?


When my brother realized that I was rereading comics multiple times because he wasn't buying new ones, he took me to the local comic shop so I could start my very own collection. There was no warning of the importance of what I chose to begin the foundation of my 'library', possibly because it shouldn't have been that big of a deal, or perhaps there was no way of telling how influential this moment would be on the rest of my life, but in any case I knew I had to choose wisely.

It came as no surprise to my brother that I was immediately drawn to the small section of Iron Man comics, but what he found odd was that I wasn't interested in the latest issue. I held a seven year old issue that came out a couple of years before I was even born. In my hands was Iron Man #133, a nothing issue that today could be found in your local shop's 50 cent bin, if they even have it. But then, in 1987 it was like seeing a naked female for the first time. I was filled with questions, and wanted to see more.


The cover that started it all for me.



The cover depicted not only The Invincible Iron Man defeated on the ground, but also The Incredible Hulk laid on the floor, in a similar defeated fashion. Jim Rhodes (prior to becoming War Machine) was clearly concerned over the well being of his friend, and Ant-Man, according to the cover he was all-new and astonishing, stood shocked at whatever it was that transpired. And what was it that happened? I had to know. The cover told me that Iron Man beat the Hulk, but asked “At what cost?”, but more intriguing to me is why would the two be fighting. To my five year old mind it didn't make sense. Although I wasn't too familiar with Hulk, I knew he was supposed to be a hero, and the idea of two heroes fighting was too much to take (this was well before Civil War or AvX) and I needed those answers.


Honestly, at this point nearly 30 years later, I barely remember what transpired within the issue, but I do know this issue was the start to my life long hobby, turned collection (borderline obsession), and career. Iron Man #133 was the first of my 30,000 (and counting) comic collection.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 2/10/14 UPDATED

Next on my reading block is a book by one of the best comic writers in the industry today, Warren Ellis.  He's the creator of the Iron Man stories that heavily influenced the feel of the movies, thus creating the Iron Man most of the public knows and loves.  I know from his comic work that he crafts interesting, fantastic tales but bases them on real world probabilities.



This has made me eager to read his first full length prose novel, "Crooked Little Vein".  However I'm not too sure what the book is about.

Let's see if Ellis' creative talents transfers over to prose...
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So I can say this was a fairly easy read, i was able to finish the entire book in about a week, and I only read it while commuting.  Warren Ellis' writing style really shines through the pages within the book, what doesn't come through is the content.  The entire book was just a showcase of some of the most depraved sexual acts ever committed to paper, with no actual story behind the "adventure".  The first day I began reading the book, I recommended it to a friend that I know would have appreciated Ellis' writing style, however the next time I spoke to that friend I took back my recommendation.

The book centers on a secret constitution that when read to an audience, it will reset the listener's moral compass.  This book was then lost to history because Richard Nixon traded it for sexual services.  A detective is hired to find the book so the government can fix the country with this book.  Crooked Little Vein follows this detective on one sexual misstep to the next, each more and more ridiculous than the last.  Warren Ellis assures us that every act and practice in the book are things he had come across in research for the book.

The sad truth is, I believe all of things in the book are actually out there, I just didn't need a map to them.  That's all this is, not an adventure story, not a mystery book, but a map to sex you didn't even know you didn't want to know about.

My rating for this would have to be...



Chapter 2.  I stand by Warren Ellis as an author, and will pick up some of his other books, but this one left me sour for the time being.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 1/24/14 UPDATED

After reading several flops that I couldn't get past, or in some cases even up to, page 75 I was tempted to reread a book I know I like.  In the end I decided against this, and chose a book that was a recent addition to my list of to-read books, "Sandman Slim".  The premise seems promising enough to be worthy of doing a "What I'm Reading" post on it.  The main character, presumably Sandman Slim (odd name) is a magician that escapes Hell to exact revenge on the group of people that sent him there.  So basically this guy never died but was sent to Hell, finds a way to get out and uses magic (either he had it before or gets it in Hell (the description I read wasn't clear on that)) to kill a bunch of people, probably also magic users. Sign me up



Stay with me to see if I stay with the book, or tap out at 75 pages.
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And I finished the book.  Not because I enjoyed the book, or because it was written well, but I pretty much finished the book because it's the kind of book I should like.

It wasn't a bad book per se, but the major flaw with this was the author kept getting in the way of what could have been a very fun read.  Richard Kadrey, whom I had never heard of prior to this book but is apparently a decently well know author, has since written an additional four novels in this Sandman Slim series, with a sixth due out this year, so clearly there is a market for his writing.

However, I found he tried way too hard to not only make the main character cool, but also to come off as cool himself.  He went to great lengths to describe scenarios or action or even emotions in such a 'badass' way that it felt heavy handed.  It was a case of "the lady doth protest too much".  The more Richard tried to make Sandman Slim, or James Stark, seem cool or tough or badass it just felt like he was overcompensating for some flaw only he sees in the character.

Another thing that bothered me was the character's name, and the name of the book.  The main character, for much of the book, didn't want people calling him by his name, because with magic knowledge of someone's name is power.  I get that, it's a trope that works, and one that I agree with using.  My issue with it, is that he doesn't offer an alternative.  There are books/movies/shows where we don't know the main character's name and it's never used.  That's fine, but here we know his name is James Stark.  If we know it, it's not a mystery, and shouldn't be a major factor, however if you want to make something of his name, and it's not a secret, an alternative needs to be provided.

By now you might be wondering about the title.  The name Sandman Slim isn't mentioned until after halfway through the book, and it's a nickname that James Stark received while fighting in the gladiator arena in Hell.  Apparently, it means, or represents, 'the monster that kills monsters' or something to that affect.  The problem with this is, other than the fact it was mentioned so late in the book, is that a lot of characters know him by this name, but he never heard of it.   There's no logic in it.

All that said there is good in this book.  The premise is fun, even if Kadrey tries his best to kill all of it.  And although you never really feel or care of Sandman, it's enjoyable enough to watch him stumble through the mysteries before him.

There were two end scenes that are polar opposites.  In the one, the main character is talking to a doctor that knows more than he's let on in the beginning of the book.  And there's real emotion in the scene, and it's pretty intriguing, unfortunately it comes at the end, and is only followed by a worse scene where Sandman is approached by Lucifer himself.  It's established they have some history from Sandman's time in the arena, but Kadrey successfully crafted the most boring interpretation of the devil in all of existence ever... ever.  Why in the name of fuck's sake is the Devil borrowing DVDs? How do you make Lucifer, the Fallen Angel embodiment of all things evil, about as intimidating as a three legged newborn puppy?  Kadrey set himself up with a great way to end the book, and instead decides for the first time in nearly 400 pages to not try and be cool.

I shan't be reading the rest of this series, but am not disappointed I've read this one.

Writing this, has made me like the book even less, so my new rating is now...

Chapter 2 = One and done.  The book's premise showed potential, but the writing killed any upside before getting to the second chapter.



Reading this book I learned that Richard Kadrey suffers from an ability to execute, unless we're talking about actually executing any chance of writing an enjoyable story.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Creator Interview Pete Hernandez III

Not too long ago I had hosted an author interview for Ed Ahern.  I had enjoyed the process so much, that I decided to continue hosting interviews.  Today we have Pete Hernandez III creator of Company Man, and an all around good guy. (I'm hoping to butter him up for future collaborations...)  On to the good stuff.

Pete Hernandez III (who else would it be a pic of?)
AzarRising: There's a large cultural and national diversity in your work, was this something you intentionally pursued, or random happenstance?

Pete Hernandez III: Completely intentional. One of my main goals was to present ethnic heroes in situations normally reserved for white heroes but without being preachy. Most times when a comic tries to present an ethnic character, like a black hero or even rarer, a Latino hero, they take a very clich├ęd and uninspired approach. 


I wanted my heroes to be from different cultural backgrounds but not throw it in the reader’s face like “Hey, respect this guy because he’s Indian or Japanese or I’ll kick your ass!” 

I just want to write good stories with characters that aren’t all white. No offense.


AR: For your personal projects you seem to take all the responsibility on yourself (writing, drawing, coloring, marketing, etc) is there any one aspect you enjoy more than the others?

PH3: If I had to choose I’d pick writing and coloring. I’ve learned to respect inking and lettering A LOT and I enjoy penciling but adding the final touches and FX is always the most fun. It brings the flat film together for me.

Marketing is a pain in the ass and can bring on major stress. I do it all because I have no other choice at the moment. I’ve tried working with others in the past but most people talk a good game without knowing how to buckle down and get the work done. Everyone enjoys brainstorming and imagining what it’ll be like at a con and all that shit but I’m focused on getting the work done and partying later.

Way too many guys I’ve met know how to talk a good game but when it comes to hard work they fold like wet paper houses.

Star of Company Man, Nicholas Reyes
AR: On a similar topic of doing everything yourself, you've also at times collaborated with others.  Which do you prefer, creating an idea and seeing it come to fruition with your own two hands, or working with someone else and creating something you wouldn't have been able to do on your own, at least not in the same way? 

PH3: I love collaborating when it works more-so than working alone. I work alone out of necessity than desire. The trouble is, as I mentioned before, most people have a garbage work ethic and can’t carry their own weight. I have a house full of electronic distractions and know how to ignore them and dive into Photoshop.

Working with others can be exciting and fulfilling as well as healthier for the mind. My ideas come much faster when bouncing off of someone else.

AR: I think it's fair to say comics are a large part of your life, do you remember the first comics you read, or what comic it was that hooked you?

PH3: It’s hard to say but I think Ghost Rider and Daredevil were some of my first comics. As a kid I was drawn, like all adolescent boys, to the more violent stories. Back then, with the Comics Code of Authority in place, it was rare to find a comic where there was bloodshed or profanity. Blood, in fact, was always in black up until Frank Miller’s Wolverine mini-series where he got around the CCA by having the blood reflect in Wolverines eyes when he killed the master.

I’ve been reading comics for 30 years. Much less now than ever in my life but that’s personal. I just feel I’m seeing the same plots and gimmicks over and over, the same re-hashed storylines and the same cheap death tricks.

Comics look better now than ever before but writing wise, most of the stuff out there is whack. Still, I can’t stay away from the art and the rare well-written book. I’ll always read comics to a greater or lesser degree.

AR: When did you know this was your calling?

PH3: I always knew art was my thing, my reason for being, since I was about five. I drew on anything when I was a kid, from loose leaf paper to toilet paper. Nothing blank was safe from my scribbling. I never really thought of doing my own comics until about ten years ago. Up until then I freelanced all over the place; from Time magazine to Colgate-Palmolive to USA network and more.

At some point around 2003 I just got sick of busting my ass to make other people’s dreams come true and got serious about making my own worlds come alive. Telling my stories my way.

AR: You recently had an advertisement for your comic "Company Man" in a Native American magazine.  With the last name Hernandez its not the first venue one would think of.  Are you Native American yourself?  If not, how did you linking up with them come about.

Said Advertisement featuring Johnny Juice and a digital copy of Company Man
PH3: I’m Puerto Rican-American, that’s it. The Native mag thing came about because I did some work with a Native American record label a few months back, helping them find new talent and doing some graphics on the side. They offered me some adspace as a thank you.

AR: Personally, I'm still looking for a friend with a finished basement I can mooch off of, because so few of us in the arts are able to support ourselves with what we love.  Do you have a 'regular' job to support your art habit? 

PH3: I do freelance graphics for a living to compensate for not making a mill off comics. I write on the side for other outlets as well. I’d worked shitty 9 to 5 gigs most of my life until I got serious about freelance and haven’t worked a solid day gig since 1994. Don’t miss the office bullshit or the commute, just the steady bi-weekly pay but you have to lose something to gain something and piece of mind is worth more than any check I ever received in the past. I don’t have to get up at 5 am and spend the day taking shit from an asshole boss or dealing with insecure people looking to advance themselves by throwing me under the bus. Bad lunches, too much stress, bottled anger…nah, I don’t miss any of that. One of the most often expressed sentiments by people on their death bed is; “I wish I’d gone after my dreams and lived my life my way.”

When I die that’s one thing I won’t regret.

AR: Where can people find your comic?

PH3: If you have a Kindle you can go to Amazon via this link and grab a few issues http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00D5TGQ7Yv

Or you can go to my Company Man site and grab the issues for 99 cents each at www.companyman.goofeesnax.com

If you want to hire me for some work visit www.goofeesnax.com or friend me on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/petehernandezIII

I’m also on Twitter, though I don’t know why, @companyman01




A collection of the amazing Company Man covers Pete does himself



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ongoing Giveaway









At this time, I'm still looking for new followers, so I've upped the ante for the race to 50.

Once I've reached 50 followers, all names will be entered into a virtual hat and 5 will be chosen at random.  Those 5 winner will receive not one but five anthologies I've been published in to date.


That's right, better than a $5 footlong from Subway, you'll receive five well crafted anthologies containing a tasting of yours truly.

Enjoy

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year: Same Excuses

I was never one to give much credence to New Year's Resolutions.  To me they seemed doomed from the start to fail.  If you need a resolution to save more money, you clearly have a larger issue at hand that's already out of your control.  You shouldn't have to rely on a particular date to begin a diet if you're not happy with your body.  And if you have to rely on a fake promise to yourself to be more productive with whatever it is that concerns you, your heart clearly isn't in it.

This is why I've never really made resolutions, and I'm not about to begin now.  But, however, nonetheless, anyhow, howbeit (didn't even know that was a word) I will make an attempt to write a new post every week. And not just for this year, but for as long as this blog is up (cue 52 week countdown for destruction of the internet)

Even though this is a free site, I feel you deserve a better, more consistent experience. I've already got the next two week's posts planned so that puts me ahead of the curve.

All that's left to say is; lose that weight, save that money, and do that work, and of course keep reading and as always enjoy it.